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How Psychologists and Therapists Differ: A Personal Experience

Comparing the role a counselor can have on one's life from a personal rather than clinical perspective.

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Having been in counseling most of my life, I never really gave much thought on how psychologists and therapists differ. While insurance dictated that I either see an LCSW or a Psychologist, I did have the opportunity to work with an LPC as well. There are plenty of articles that detail the clinical difference based on educational training, but this article deals with my personal experiences.

When I saw a therapist (which I classify as either LCSW or LPC), it was mostly talking therapy. They acted more as a life coach with encouraging words, bits of advice, and nods of agreement. While some employed such modalities as CBT and DBT, they were not adept at any of them. They relied on workbooks and handouts to really hone in on a particular skill.

My life was temporarily transformed by their listening skills and I could face another day. However, I was dependent on the therapist long-term. They served a purpose, nonetheless, as I was not always ready or willing for clinical change to happen in my life.

When I worked with a Psychologist, my life really turned around permanently. It took a year and a half of seeing a skilled clinician every week to enact enough change that going forward talk therapy was helpful in simply maintaining what I had accomplished through the application of psychological principles.

The one difference I recall is the testing that was done to identify more clearly my diagnosis. This influenced the plan they made for my treatment. It also helped the clinician be sensitive to things that were inherently chemical versus simply psychological. Yes, it went to that degree of determination.

That is what made the difference for me. They did not try to change or question or work out the chemical challenges, but rather the psychological ones. Skills learned with talk therapists like CBT and DBT were essential to my overcoming the limitations set forth by chemical or clinical conditions.

So, it is clear that both forms of counseling have their place. And, both forms should be used at the right time based on where you stand in your life’s path. Neither is better than the other, but they, for me, had significantly different outcomes.

I currently see an LCSW on a monthly basis just for maintenance. It is good to simply get kudos for a job well done or empathy for a difficult situation. And, I attend DBT sessions periodically to keep my coping skills refreshed. I hope this has given you some perspective, although written from a personal and not clinical one.

Share with me your personal journey with these different types of counselors and how they have helped you in your walk. Are you bipolar or dealing with trauma or overstressed? What distinguishes the impact each type of counselor has on a person? I am curious as to your assessment.

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